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Continuity Editing

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 14 years, 3 months ago


This is a style of editing that requres the director to try to make the film reality as much like the audience's reality as possible. This means the film is trying to recreate what the world around us is and trying to make it easier on the audience to comprehend and understand the action happening on screen.

Within this style of editing there are many terms or ways of implementing the style. These affects can be used independetly of each other to create desired affects.


Terms Associated with Continuity Editing


Eyeline Match

This employs the audience’s ability to assume things. This series of shots usually shows someone looking at something and then what exactly they are looking at. In this way the auience can see exactly what the character is seeing and what the director wants them to see.



The above clip is a prime example of the eyeline match. This clip is from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). In this film Jimmy Stewart’s character is confined to his wheelchair and must resort to spying on his neighbors through the rear window of his apartment in order to entertain himself. This opening scene shows multiple examples of eyeline matches. We see Stewart staring at what looks like straight out his window and are then cut to a view of a woman dancing around her apartment. This eyeline match occurs multiple times. We also see an eyeline match to a helicopter flying in the sky, a woman who appears to live below the level of Stewart’s apartment, a man playing a piano, an arguing couple, a woman with a birdcage and a woman reading a magazine in a chair. Stewart’s character looks out the window and then we are cut to a view of what he is seeing as he looks over his neighbors. 


Match on Action

In order for this series of shots to make sense, the director must manipulate the camera as if the film reality he/she is creating exists when not in view of the camera. This means, for example, that if a character happens to walk off screen in one shot, he must walk onto another screen in another shot. All this says to the audience is that when one shot ends another will pick up where the other left off making the reality of the film fluid and continuous.




The above clip from Victor Flemings The Wizard of Oz (1939) is an example of match on action. Miss Gulch is seen riding her bicycle, moving to the right, for the majority of the short clip. At the cut we can see Miss Gulch still riding her bicycle coming in the direction towards the viewer. The speed at which she is riding does not change, which adds to the continuity and flow of the one shot to the next. These shots could have been recorded a year apart but the match on action editing technique creates a flow to the viewer making the connection between both shots seamless. We know that while the camera cut to a different angle of view the entirety of the clip shown is meant to be taken as a single action (riding the bicycle) happening at the same point in time.


Establishing Shot

This is a basic shot that is used a lot. This shot is usually wide angled showing the setting in which a scene is taking place. It helps the audience maintain a sense of where the action of the film is taking place and places a smaller part of the film as a whole inside of a specific place.



This example comes from the very beginning of Stanley Kubrik's The Shining. It clearly focuses on the Overlook Hotel, the main setting for the majority of the movie. Most aspects of this shot stress the importance of the setting, helping to make this establishing shot stick the importance of the setting in our mind: the high point of view, the tracking from far to nearer the hotel, honing in directly on what will be the setting. After a title card, the shot following this is of the interior of the hotel, only recognizable to the audience as such because of it's chronological order from exterior to interior shots leading to the logical inference that they are the same place.


POV (Point of View) Shot

This shot can be associated with the eyeline match but is a little different. This shot tries to place the camera as a character, making the audience have physical mass inside of the film reality. For example, in this scene from The Birth of a Nation we see the stage and the balcony of the theater from the point of view of a normal audience member, this being in one of the seats facing the same way as the rest of the crowd is facing. In this way, the director can place the audience into a scene so they feel more connected to the action.





One film celebrated for the use of Point of View shots is Hitchcock's Vertigo. Not only does this film exemplify the idea of POV shots placing the audience in the action of the film, but it also places the audience in the position of the main character, an effect referred to as "leading actor POV" (Wikipedia). Often this effect is employed to help the audience empathize with the main character, or to restrict their view strictly to that of the characters. In this example, we only see through the binoculars what the Jimmy Stewart character is seeing, focusing our attention on the very precise details that he is focusing on, as well as blocking our view of any action occuring behind Stewart. This effect can be employed in thriller movies when the director wishes to spook the audience and the character simultaneously, by restricting the frame to that of the character's view.


Axis of Action

This rule is somewhat complicated but makes sense if you know what you are looking for. On the contrary you probably think this is the most simple logical thing to do when filming a conversation but it is actually a filming style itself. Take for example two people facing each other having a conversation. The scene cuts between each of these characters seeing both halves of the conversation between two separate shots with only the single actor in each frame. You want one actor facing left on the screen and one actor facing right. This creates the illusion that they are looking at each other and not simply off the screen. If both characters are facing left then they look as if they are facing the same direction, not each other, and therefore would make for an odd looking conversation.


See the Axis of Action page for examples from films.


Parallel Editing

Cross-cutting, sometimes called parallel editing, is an editing technique which Jacques Aumont describes as one which, “creates the impression of simultaneity between two series.” (5.p168) More information on this technique can be found on the parallel editing page.


Diegetic Sound- Used to Assist Continuity Editing

Diegetic sound is often associated with continuity editing. Diegetic sound can assist a film’s flow and allow the continuity of a scene to remain stable- which is a goal of continuity editing. Diegetic sound is sound that is actually created within the world of the film (2). When edits are being made and cuts are seen in a particular scene in a film which included diegetic sound, the uninterrupted continuation of the diegetic sound helps the viewer piece together the events taking place before them. If the song or sound you are hearing is played straight through with no jumps or pauses, while the action taking place is seen through a series of shots, it makes logical sense that the action occurring takes place together with no breaks in time (2).



This clip is an example from Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion. In the opening of the scene Marechel is seen singing along with a recorded song. This same song is heard playing throughout the scene. The camera moves over the room and we are cut from a view of the sign below the bar to a shot of Captain de Boeldieu. The song is still heard, faint in the background. This diegetic sound helps the viewer link together that these events are all happening in the same period of time and no gaps or jumps in time have occurred. When the transition occurs to the next scene where we see the French soldiers being escorted into a room full of Germans after being shot down from their plane the song is not playing as it was before. This is one clue to the viewer that this event is taking place at a different point in time. 


Editing Notes: 

And I would love to work on this example with a personal camera of mine. I think I could make it kinday funny

(ok call me lazy but this is a REALLY big section of film history and aesthetics. I left these terms to be created in major edits. I hope that is ok with everyone but I am going on 700 words on this page.)

-Temporal Discontinuity

-plus there are many more...these are just the big ones I could find.

-We also could use a short paragraph on how Griffith's movies embodied this style and how he popularized it in cinema.


Within all these rules the main goal is to keep the audience from becoming confused about what action is happening in the film's reality. This stands in stark contrast to discontinuity editing which tries to make the audience rethink their own reality while creating a new one within the world of the film. 

Ok I know I have a COMPLETE lack of links of this article but I dont see how I can connect it to other pages. Lord know a lot of pages are going to be linked TO this one. But please forgive the lack of links.



Works Cited

1. http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/htmfiles/intro.htm

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuity_editing

3. http://www.cybercollege.com/tvp050.htm

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_of_view_shot

5. Aumont, Jacques. Aesthetics of Film. Googlebooks. University of Texas Press, 1992. Web. October 22, 2009.

Comments (8)

Sean Desilets said

at 3:37 pm on Oct 3, 2009

This page keeps getting better. I think it's the best one we've got so far.

Sean Desilets said

at 3:36 pm on Oct 3, 2009

I think Sammy's sequence from _Rear Window_ continues to produce a really nice illustration of the illusion-inducing effects of POV. You can see as the clip ends that Stewart is about to look through his binoculars again. If I'm not mistaken (this definitely happens at some point in _Rear Window_, but there are lots of eyeline match sequences like this), the next time he looks through the binoculars the magnification is *much* more extreme. Sometimes reality-bending edits like that are called "cheat cuts."

Sean Desilets said

at 12:57 pm on Sep 26, 2009

Yes! It's a great example, and you explain it brilliantly.

Nykki Montano said

at 10:09 pm on Sep 24, 2009

The Wiz O Oz clip was the best thing I could find out there for an example of match on action... is that the right thing? Does it make sense to use that clip as an example?

William Palm said

at 9:05 am on Sep 17, 2009

Thanks!!! Spelling and William...we try to get along but rarely do.

Sean Desilets said

at 3:32 pm on Sep 16, 2009

I got it.

Nykki Montano said

at 11:46 am on Sep 16, 2009

I don't know how to edit the title of a page... but you spelled "continuity" wrong for the page title, maybe get Sean to fix that?

Nykki Montano said

at 9:22 pm on Sep 15, 2009

I love the plea for forgiveness...

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